First-rounder? First MLB spring game? How about a first homer?

Brewers prospect Brown savors deep drive after his Spring Training debut

February 27th, 2023

PHOENIX -- What was going through ’s mind as he circled the bases on Sunday? Not much, it turns out. Brown, the Brewers’ first-round Draft pick last year, had just homered against the Oakland A’s in his very first Major League Spring Training game.

“My first big league home run, I didn’t realize it was a two-run home run until I got back to the locker room,” Brown said Monday morning. “I blacked out, if I’m being honest.

“It was a dream come true, a loss of words.”

Who could blame the 22-year-old Brown for being excited?

Craig Counsell’s first Major League Spring Training game was 30 years ago this week, and he remembers it like it was yesterday. It was 1993, the Rockies were in their second spring as a franchise, and Counsell, less than a year after being drafted, was one of the Colorado Minor Leaguers along for the ride to Chandler, Ariz. to play and the Brewers.

That was a fitting thing since Counsell grew up around the team while his dad worked in Milwaukee’s front office. Counsell even remembers collecting a couple of hits and celebrating a little too hard on the ride back to Tucson. He had plenty of time to celebrate because the team bus broke down.

’s memory of his first Major League Spring Training game is a little fuzzy, but his first home run is crystal clear: March 2, 2013, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. against the Mets. Matt Harvey in his prime. Yelich leading off. Harvey threw a slider, and Yelich parked it for the first of his five homers that spring.

“I had a good spring that year,” Yelich said. “That’s when I first was like, ‘Maybe I can do this.’”

For a player getting started in his pro career, there’s no such thing as “just” Spring Training.

“I thought it was a big deal,” Yelich said. “When you’re in the Minor Leagues, you see the Major League players around camp, so they’re close. It’s tangible. But it couldn’t feel farther away, at the same time. But that day, it’s the first time you get to see a Major League game in person. It’s pretty cool.

“It’s a cool part of Spring Training to see [Minor League] guys get in there. You remember how you felt about it. It’s been such a long time now, which is crazy.”

Brown’s unofficial Major League debut didn’t begin well. After replacing at shortstop to start the sixth inning, Brown airmailed the throw on his first ground ball for an error. In the bottom of that inning, he struck out.

Fellow Brewers prospect Joe Gray Jr. and onetime Brewers prospect Rickie Weeks, now on the player development staff, both put an arm around Brown in the dugout and collectively told him, ‘You’re good. You’ve been playing this game for a while. You’re going to figure it out. We understand it’s your first game. Slow down.”

Brown, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Crew's No. 9 prospect, appreciated the advice.

In the ninth inning, he went deep.

“I’ve realized my story is already written,” Brown said. “That’s my perspective about everything; God already has my story written out. If I just trust it, then everything is going to take care of itself.”

The Brewers drafted Brown 27th overall last June out of Coastal Carolina University, and he split the remainder of the Minor League season between the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League and Single-A Carolina, with an .811 OPS in 100 plate appearances at the higher affiliate.

“Everything went so quick,” Brown said. “The difference between last year and this year -- I’m coming into this year with a clear mindset. I would say I had time to prepare [last year], but I didn’t know what I was preparing for. Getting my feet wet last year was a blessing, and now this year coming back, it’s like, ‘All right, let’s go.’”

Brown spent the early portion of the offseason resting his mind. He visited his girlfriend in Colorado Springs, Colo. He vacationed with his family. And then he got back to work. In December, Brown shared a video of a spirited session with a longtime coach, Eddie Fitzpatrick, who has worked with the player since Brown was 10 years old.

There have been some changes to Brown’s distinctive swing from college, with high hands reminiscent of Julio Franco. Now it’s simplified.

“It’s a little bit different, and it’s a little less thinking for me,” Brown said. “That’s the thing for me: Less thinking is better. ‘Just be who you are’ is the motto I’m taking into this year.”